The myths, rumors and legends that surround the current incarnation of Van Halen were all put to rest before a clamoring audience of thousands during the hard rock group’s recent performance at the Midflorida Credit Union Amphitheater in Tampa.
Anticipation for the heavyweight rock headliners was high as The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band found their way onstage. Shepherd’s distinctive swampy blues guitar work remained in admirable form and proved to be an appropriate compliment to the explosive overtones that Van Halen would later deliver onto the stage. Through solid renditions of “Blue on Black” and a cover of Jimi Hendrix‘s “Voodoo Child,” The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band had won over the full house of veteran fans.
While Van Halen’s impressive stage arrangements, which includes a sizable drum platform with integrated lights which Roth later remarked “looks like New York City,” were presented onstage, the energy within the sizable crowd soon began to cumulate into near hysterical proportions. Even prior to a single member of these iconic rockers taking the stage, the notion that Van Halen can no longer draw an impressive crowd was already defeated.
There was no gradual introduction to Van Halen’s appearance; within a matter of seconds, the house lights went to black and Eddie Van Halen began tearing through a cacophony of manic arpeggios and dive bombs. Just as soon as Alex Van Halen took his seat on his throne behind the skins, definitive frontman David Lee Roth appeared right alongside him, smashing a pair of large cymbals together and making warrior poses. Lifeless performance this was not, and that was even before a single note of Edward’s climbing intro to “Light Up the Sky” rang out through his towers of EVH speakers.
Roth sounded in fine form and largely strayed close to a similar breed of lower register that originally graced the ‘Van Halen II’ recording. “I turned on my flat screen, lost my fucking mind!” he proclaimed in distinctive fashion. While sliding across his own platform on center stage during “Running With the Devil,” Diamond Dave took a fall and played it off rather effortlessly. “I’ve been taking lessons from Steven Tyler,” Roth laughed before climbing back up and continuing with the song.
Van Halen’s set list, which has been filed to the brim with deep cuts to the credit of bassist Wolfgang Van Halen, left casual listeners thrilled and die hard advocates even more so. The first few notes of “Running With the Devil” and “Hot For Teacher” were met with manic reactions, whereas the ‘Fair Warning’ fan favorite “Dirty Movies” and the ‘1984’ cult classic “Drop Dead Legs” were received just as warmly. “A percentage of every ticket here tonight will go a stripper,” Roth assured as King Edward began picking the distinctive intro of the former.
For some time, there have been those who claimed that Wolfgang, who would replace longtime member Michael Anthony when Van Halen reunited in 2007 with Roth, had no real vocal ability and has instead been relying on recordings of Anthony’s singing. The 20,000 fans who showed up to Van Halen’s latest run in Tampa can attest that these claims are entirely nonsensical based upon the distinguishably unique and entirely stellar melodies that highlighted “In a Simple Rhyme” alone.
The showman in David Lee Roth remained as rowdy as ever over the course of the evening. Roth tutored the receptive audience in the stage mannerisms of his peers during “Dance the Night Away,” which showed the frontman mimicking Coldplay singer Chris Martin’s “Full Jesus” (arms outstretched) and Ozzy Osbourne‘s “Looking out of a burning building and calling to the firefighters,” which largely involving drunkenly stumbling about and comically yelling “Sharon!”
Sipping from a bottle of Jack Daniels, Roth sat down with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica while wailing out a presentation of blues rock which could have easily transitioned into “Fools” from the ‘Women and Children First’ record. Diamond Dave reflected upon the beginning of his solo career and meeting his musical hero James Brown at the 1985 MTV Music Awards. “I was inducted into my personal hall of fame right there,” Roth recounted with a grin before playing the first set of chords to “Ice Cream Man.”
After a whirlwind rendition of “Unchained,” Eddie Van Halen delivered a hefty assault on the senses with a manic nine minute guitar solo which unified portions of “Spanish Fly,” “Little Guitars Intro,” “Cathedral,” “Mean Street” and the redefining “Eruption.” The king of rock guitar may have been sporting gray hair and a shaven beard, however his skills on the six strings are perhaps even more impressive now than they were four decades ago.
Van Halen rounded off their grand return to Tampa with two monumental cuts from the 10x platinum ‘1984’ album, “Panama” and the synthesizer-layered “Jump.” Stray away from the rumors: Van Halen are back and a live force to be reckoned with.
Van Halen Setlist 9.13.15 Tampa, FL Midflorida Credit Union Amphitheater
Light Up the Sky
Runnin’ With the Devil
Everybody Wants Some!!
Drop Dead Legs
Feel Your Love Tonight
Somebody Get Me a Doctor
She’s the Woman
Dance the Night Away
Women in Love
Hot for Teacher
In a Simple Rhyme
Ice Cream Man
Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
You Really Got Me
Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band